Ben Wellings
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Locating England
National traditions and political dilemmas
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This chapter argues that one of the most important frames for linking popular grievances and the elite project of leaving the EU was a national one in which a majority of the English electorate sought to defend British sovereignty from the EU. The Englishness of the vote to leave the European Union in 2016 therefore requires an examination of an elusive subject: English nationalism. There is little academic or political consensus on this topic and whether or not a politicised English identity can be labelled nationalism as such or into what kind of model of nationalism England best fits. Such divergent views depend on definitions of nationalism itself. Historic imperatives in English nationalism created a sense of nationhood that was broader than England alone and was constituted through engagement with other peoples across the world, notably the English-speaking peoples. This was a major component of the wider categories of belonging that informed understandings of English nationhood. This merged the content of English nationalism with wider polities and projects, notably Britain and Empire, but not the European Union for which the Anglosphere operated as an alternative.

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